Why was Dirty Dancing such a blockbuster movie? It was the story of star-crossed lovers in a unique place and time. The Jewish resort area in the Catskill Mountains of New York known as "The Borscht Belt" was a place for Jews banned from gentile resorts to vacation. In its heyday, there were upwards of five hundred hotels and fifty-thousand bungalow colonies. To those who lived and worked in the region, it was a fabulous, ridiculous, idyllic, and tawdry life.
Those of you familiar with my work may have read my short stories based on my life growing up in the Catskills, not to mention my illustrated memoir, Numinosity.
I am putting the finishing touches on the novel I've always meant to write, tentatively titled Kaminsky's Oasis Hotel. In brief, it tells the following story:
In the summer of 1972, three women clash in ways that transform them at one of the largest resorts in the Catskills, the fictional Kaminsky's Oasis Hotel. Sara Levy is the daughter of a talented madcap couple who're killed on their way to their big break on The Tonight Show when she's nine years old. She's sent to live in a sheltered suburb with her well-meaning, condescending aunt and uncle. She reluctantly agrees to go back to take an Oasis summer job at the behest of her best friend, Arlene Goodman, the child of Holocaust survivors. Sara is struggling with abandonment issues, suppressed talent, and her budding feelings for other women.
Ruth Kaminsky-Sanger is the Leona Helmsley-type matriarch faced with the death of an employee on the grounds of the hotel, not to mention the possibility of a malignant brain tumors. These vexing issues are interfering with her ambitions to save her hotel at any expense. Hannah Sharpova, Ruth's trusted friend and employee, is a Holocaust survivor with a past that she's determined to keep secret. This is a story about "hotel people," told from these women's points of view, visiting different times in their lives.
While my previous novels are now out of print, you can view them, as well as my other works and awards in the About Linda section.
Please contact me for more details.
Let me tell you a little bit about my latest project:
I grew up in a culture of oral storytelling. My Aunt Kyra rivaled Homer in her ability to turn an incident into an epic narrative of life and death proportions. She didn't need to pause or breath. Like a soap opera goddess, she breathed inspiration instead of air.
Recently, I had an artistic epiphany. I considered myself a fiction writer. Yet, I'd always played in visual arts, including photography. I created a project that combines visual elements with poetry and prose in an epic narrative that is both text and pictorial. Not illustrated poetry or artwork with words in it, but a piece that is memoir, cultural history, spirituality and philosophy combined into a whole in which the text and imagery are interdependent and both necessary to the whole.
The narrative takes the form of a magazine that resembles Life magazine, but I have invented a magazine called Numinosity. I have invented all the content. The components include my poetry, prose, philosophic inquiry, old and new photographs, and altered photo images.
Each "chapter" of the work is an issue of the magazine. Each of these takes place in a time period--the fifties, sixties, seventies, up until the two thousands, in which the magazine (and my father) die. Advertising is critical to the theme. My invented ads reflect the times and my relationship with my parents, especially with my father.
REVIEWS AND PRAISE:
Family History as Fiction
"As a reviewer I am often asked who my favorite writers are and because I actually know many of the people whose works I review, I always claim that I have no favorites. Rather, I have writers that I always look forward to hearing from especially when they tell me that have a new book and would like me to review it. One of those writers is Linda Morganstein, a writer who never ceases to surprise me. Last week I got an email from Morganstein telling me that she had a new book out and she said a few a words about it and then let a UTube video say the most. She did not ask me if I would review it; she simply announced that she had a new book. She may have assumed that I would ask her to send me a copy and I loved that there was no pressure put on me. Of course I wanted to review it and answered her immediately with a request for a copy. It arrived yesterday and I have been with the book ever since. (Linda, you never have to ask—just send the books). As both a fiction and mystery writer, Morganstein has drawn fascinating and real characters. In one of my reviews of another of her books, I wrote "that [her characters] are well defined and real. When I say real I mean that we can see ourselves in them." In her new book, "Numinosity", her characters are drawn from her family and herself and that is about as real as one can get. This is Morganstein's family history as a fictionalized memoir and the entire book is very clever. Morganstein has thrown traditional formatting out of the window and gives us a book modeled on the old "Life" magazine. Size wise it is about half the size of a coffee table book but certainly not the size of books that we are used to reading. It is filled with photographs and blurbs and I soon found myself tearing up about some of the memories it raises.
The content comes from Morganstein's "eccentric family history" but written as a fictionalized memoir. Divided into six chapters, we have articles written by invented personalities (all of whom are the author herself). Like a magazine, there are ads on many pages but what is advertised are products of the author's mind (and great fun). Morganstein parodies consumerism with ads for "NYX Ballbuster" cigarettes and "Nadir" televisions. There is something special on every page making this one of the "funnest" books I have ever read or even held in my hands.
It does not tale long to realize that this is a book about "the relationship of humor and tragedy in art" and that if we are going to leave the past behind us we must take a look at what was and fashion it into its own story which will be a tragicomedy. By consciously laughing and crying about the past, we liberate ourselves from it.
I was reminded when I was a young religious school student at my synagogue in New Orleans and we began to read the Hebrew bible. One of the major Jewish publishing houses put out a comic book edition of the Five Books of Moses and we were all given a copy. The rabbi knew that the best way to get his students to understand was to make the read fun for them and this was the age of Archie and Veronica who we soon saw as Samson and Delilah. This is how we learned— reading a comic book about the patriarchs (for us there were not yet matriarchs back then) and I grew to love the Bible stories in the comic book that I kept next to my bed. In effect, that is what Linda Morganstein has done here. She gives us an illustrated biography that is fun to read and like those Bible stories, I am not likely to forget it. She has torn down the barriers between genres, stood literature on its head and shows us how to have fun as we read. Here is "visual/verbal" art that has a message of seriousness. I now will replace my own Bible comic book with "Numinosity" on the bed table next to where I sleep and I am pretty sure that I will read it as many times as I read about Moses parting the sea."
--Amos Lassen, respected reviewer of books, movies, and Judaica
Advanced praise for Numinosity: A Fractured Memoir
"Linda Morganstein's Numinosity: A Fractured Memoir creates a whole new genre—a visual/verbal art form—that surprises and delights the reader with every turn of the page. The book is smart and funny, but also filled with an underlying seriousness that will take you to the depths of your resources and imagination."
--Mary Swander, Poet Laureate of Iowa
"If Life and Mad magazines had a child it would be Morganstein's Numinosity. But, her's is funnier – and often darker. The book challenges the reader to examine their own past - and compare it to a life story that seems unbelievable, but is as absolutely true as it is creatively re-imagined. I had the great privilege of working with Linda Morganstein as this triumph of faith was shepherded from a sculptural installation to its current form: a genre-busting memoir that deftly blends the original visual and written elements into one creative powerhouse.
Morganstein's memoir takes creative non-fiction to a whole new level. It skates on that razor thin edge between truth and fabrication. Even her magazine's "product placements" – satirical ads for imaginary goods and services – have a sharp grain of truth in them and are almost as ridiculous as their real-world counterparts."
--Jill Waterhouse, internationally exhibited sculptor and artist's mentor
"Morganstein provides a clever new way to tell her life story through a creative combination of written word and visual narrative. 'Life' Magazine is an evident theme, with detailed and professional quality layouts, personal family photos, biographical stories, and satirical advertisements. The honesty of her story makes this multifaceted book a page turner, sharing difficult times, delicate moments, fun adventures and true humor. Numinosity is one of the most approachable and creative ways to tell an autobiography I have experienced, in a format that anyone would be interested in exploring."
–Kate Renee, professional artist and art business consultant